Understanding the predictors and consequences of homelessness in Northern Ireland

Status: Active


The personal, social, health and economic costs of homelessness are significant. In 2017, the Northern Ireland Audit Office recommended that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) should expand its analysis, interpretation and presentation of the homelessness data it collects. This ‘deep dive’ type of analysis would improve understanding about the underlying drivers of homelessness and sources of regional variation, as well as providing evidence to inform strategic planning.

The NIHE holds sole statutory responsibility for providing housing and addressing homelessness including collating and publishing statistics related to homelessness. Data on homelessness in Northern Ireland appears to be relatively extensive and high in quality, potentially enabling a better understanding to be gained about the nature and extent of homelessness and associated problems in Northern Ireland compared to other European countries or regions. However, the data has not been ‘mined’ extensively with the aim of attempting to provide research evidence that will inform policy. More specifically, the data has never been linked to other administrative datasets to investigate possible preceding factors to, or long-term outcomes of, homelessness.   

Aims & key questions

This project aims to provide robust research evidence for policymakers, practitioners and the public about the causes and consequences of homelessness in Northern Ireland. The objectives of the project are:

  1. To measure the incidence, prevalence, and duration of homelessness over time and place, overall, and in subgroup analysis by the reason for homelessness.
  2. To describe the characteristics of people who have been homeless, overall, and in subgroup analysis by the reason for homelessness, compared to the Northern Ireland population.
  3. To investigate the risk factors for homelessness with respect to personal characteristics, time period, geographical factors, health-related factors, and social factors (for example, being a looked-after child or child in the care of social services).
  4. To investigate the association between homelessness and health and social outcomes, including physical and mental health, and the use of health and social care services.                                      


This Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI) study will analyse an anonymised, linked dataset that includes NIHE and health and social care data.


This study has the potential to increase our understanding about the characteristics, needs and outcomes of the homeless population in Northern Ireland. It is possible that the results may contribute to facilitating further cross-departmental integration and commitment to addressing vulnerable homeless households with complex needs. 


  • A systematic review was published on whole-population observational studies that used administrative data to identify causes and consequences associated with individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
  • A research protocol for the study was published.
  • An academic abstract of a conference paper was published discussing the potential of project data to examine homelessness in NI.

Project details

Initial project lead: Professor Dermot O’Reilly *

Research team: Professor Michael Donnelly, Dr Declan Bradley, Dr Eileen Mitchell and Dr Siobhan Murphy.

Duration: Due for completion by 2026

Contact: ADRC NI office

*Professor Dermot O’Reilly was the initial project lead for this study. Dermot died in October 2023 after a short period of illness. He was a dear friend and colleague and served as the Director of Administrative Data Research Centre Northern Ireland (ADRC NI) since 2014.

Funding: This project is funded by ADRC NI via its core grant from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) via ADR UK.  

Categories: Research using linked data, ADR Northern Ireland, Children & young people, Crime & justice, Health & wellbeing, Housing & communities, Inequality & social inclusion

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